Gilchrist Model 5 Carved Top Mandolin (1997)

Gilchrist  Model 5 Carved Top Mandolin  (1997)
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Item # 11804
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Gilchrist Model 5 Model Carved Top Mandolin (1997), made in Warrnambool, Australia, serial # 97371, Cremona Brown Sunburst varnish finish, flame maple back, sides and neck; red spruce top, ebony fingerboard, molded plastic hard shell case.

Stephen Gilchrist is widely considered the finest builder of traditionally-styled mandolins in the world today, and his instruments are highly sought after by the most discerning players. He hand builds them in small batches in rural Australia, eschewing most modern production techniques in favor of traditional methods. Over the past few decades Gilchrist has secured a reputation second to none, and there is a considerable waiting list for a newly made instrument from him.

This mandolin is an older example of his Model 5, a subtly refined copy of the original Gibson Lloyd Loar era F-5 which is the template for all Bluegrass mandolins. Many players say Gilchrist's mandolins are the best that they've ever played, even compared to the vintage Gibsons that inspired them. Based on the ones we have handles would agree; this now nicely played in 26 year old Gilchrist is simply as fine as a "modern" mandolin gets.

It bears serial number 97371 one of a batch started in January 1997 and finished in May that year. The finish is the traditional Loar-style Cremona Brown Sunburst varnish. The two-piece back is carved from gloriously flamed red maple, the sides also have a lovely vibrant figure. The top is fine-grained Engleman spruce. As per vintage Gibson spec, the top has the traditional twin parallel braces. The fingerboard is traditional Gibson style with a flat radius, and the extension is fully fretted not dressed away.

Appointments include nickel plated hardware including an engraved tailpiece reminiscent of Gibson's pre-War style but uniquely refined by Gilchrist. A lovely feature inherited from the 1920's F-5's is the pearl nut, and mother of pearl buttons on the tuners. The elegant scrolled headstock maintains a timeless grace, with the traditional Style 5 flowerpot inlay under Gilchrist's logo. The elevated pickguard is made of triple bound Celluloid; even the securing clamp is the 1920s Celluloid design.

The design and craftsmanship on this mandolin are truly exemplary, but the real delight is in the sound. The dynamic range is greater than most similar instruments regardless of age. It has a full, rich tone, brighter than some of these with the high-end Bluegrass "bark" sought in an F-5 without ever edging into shrill. It also has excellent note separation along the length of the fingerboard. This is a truly exceptional modern mandolin, now more than a quarter century old and played in to perfection. As with all of Stephen Gilchrist's instruments it is exquisitely built in the pre-war tradition but with musical response and tonal excellence as the overriding considerations.
Overall length is 27 1/4 in. (69.2 cm.), 10 in. (25.4 cm.) across at the widest point, and 1 11/16 in. (4.3 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 14 in. (356 mm.). Width of nut is 1 1/16 in. (27 mm.).

This beautiful mandolin shows some wear from having been played over the last 25+ years, which has certainly only enhanced its sonic signature. The original finish shows some minor scuffs and pick marks to the top, in the area below the upper waist. A small spot has been touched up just behind the center of the bridge, likely some sort of finish pull when the bridge was moved.

There is a decent amount of finish worn down to the wood on the back of the maple neck, feeling great just like the older Gibsons that wear the same way. There is a small visible expansion seam on the back of headstock at the base of the scroll; this is feelable but does not appear to have ever been open further and does not cause any playing or sonic issues.

Other than this the mandolin looks played in but well cared for. There is a K&K pickup installed under the bridge, wired to a mini-jack setup in the endpin that did not require additional drilling. The frets have been recently crowned and show no subsequent wear. The mandolin plays and sounds exactly like what it is; one of the finest 8-string instruments in the world regardless of age or pedigree. It resides in a molded plastic Hiscox case ready for new musical adventures. Overall Excellent - Condition.